Molecular pharming or the technology of application of plants and plant cell culture to manufacture high-value recombinant proteins has progressed a long way over the last three decades. Whether generated in transgenic plants by stable expression or in plant virus-based transient expression systems, biopharmaceuticals have been produced to combat several human viral diseases that have impacted the world in pandemic proportions. Plants have been variously employed in expressing a host of viral antigens as well as monoclonal antibodies. Many of these biopharmaceuticals have shown great promise in animal models and several of them have performed successfully in clinical trials. The current review elaborates the strategies and successes achieved in generating plant-derived vaccines to target several virus-induced health concerns including highly communicable infectious viral diseases. Importantly, plant-made biopharmaceuticals against hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), the cancer-causing virus human papillomavirus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), influenza virus, zika virus, and the emerging respiratory virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) have been discussed. The use of plant virus-derived nanoparticles (VNPs) and virus-like particles (VLPs) in generating plant-based vaccines are extensively addressed. The review closes with a critical look at the caveats of plant-based molecular pharming and future prospects towards further advancements in this technology. The use of biopharmed viral vaccines in human medicine and as part of emergency response vaccines and therapeutics in humans looks promising for the near future.
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